Taking Our Own Advice: Usability in Practice

Content From: HIV.govPublished: February 26, 20083 min read


We have completed a number of usability assessments for the HIV.gov website. However, when we were writing our latest blog post about usability, we realized we neglected to check in with our readers on the blog site. We had not assessed the usability of our own blog. Yikes!

But the great thing about a blog is that it is easy to test usability--all you have to do is ask your readers, and it's never too late to ask!

Within three days, we had developed an informal feedback form and heard from a small group of our visitors. (As we noted last week, "experts have confirmed that you can get useful feedback from 5 or 6 users.")

We asked our users:

  1. What information did you expect to obtain from the HIV.gov blog?
  2. How helpful has the information provided by the HIV.gov blog been for you?
  3. How clear is the information provided?
  4. How easy is it to navigate the HIV.gov blog?
  5. What else would you like to see on the HIV.gov blog?

What We Learned
Our respondents found the information we provide to be helpful and easy to navigate. However, they said the blog wasn't what they expected when they first visited. "I like the focus on new technology (wikis, RSS feeds, etc.), but thought I would also get program-related content (e.g., information on specific HIV/AIDS programs and policies)."

Users said they appreciated the new media focus. "I hear buzz words all the time, and now I can read what they really mean..." Another said: "Very informative and on a topic (new technology) that I wouldn't have thought I needed."

Our respondents repeatedly asked for more HIV-specific resources and personal accounts of how new technologies are changing HIV programming. They also asked for links to other government blogs and information about other government new media efforts.

Finally, they told us that the graphic we use for our exit disclaimers was distracting.

Now What?
The key to improving usability is to listen--and to respond--to your users. In the next few weeks, our blog posts will respond to our visitors' comments. We will:

  • Include at least two examples of new media being used directly in the fight against HIV/AIDS in each post. (But we need your help... send examples!)
  • Change the exit disclaimer graphic.
  • Modify the way we describe the blog, so that readers will know immediately that we are blogging about ways to use new media in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Our team referred to the resources we mentioned in last week's post, Usability - Websites and Beyond and found them to be helpful.

In closing, we are reminded of one of our favorite quotes by usability expert Steve KrugExit Disclaimer: "How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people's lives just by doing our job a little better?"

Asking for feedback is one of those ways that we try to do our jobs just a bit better--in the hope that you can use something you find here to combat HIV/AIDS in the communities, or among the individuals, you serve. Feel free to send us your feedback anytime.

For our next post on March 4 we will report back on the Texting 4 Health ConferenceExit Disclaimer and how it applies to the fight against HIV/AIDS.